Manual vs automatic transmission: Which is more efficient?

28 Aug 15

Fuel efficiency isn't just important in keeping your running costs down, it's also an integral part of minimising driving-related emissions for the sake of the planet.

Technology has moved on since the days when smoke belching, fuel guzzling vehicles used to be the only option for the discerning driver - now engines are made smarter, running cleaner than ever before, with some even powered thanks to electricity.

Whether you fall down on the manual or automatic side of the argument, you can find out more about the eco status of a used car with a CarHistory report

Manual transmission 

Also known as 'stick-shift' to our American friends, the good old manual transmission involves selecting the gear you drive in yourself, hence the name 'manual'. You're much more connected with the driving experience, allowing you to listen to the engine and judge how far to push the car given the conditions. 

Traditionally thought to be the more fuel efficient option, manual transmission vehicles give the driver more control over their driving choices than an automatic. In addition, manual transmission vehicles tend to be less expensive of the pair, according to Allianz1​

One of the enduring advantages of manual vehicles is that they don't require a torque converter like automatics do - an extra piece of equipment that adds weight to your car, ergo making it less fuel efficient, explains Arnold Clark Automobiles2.

Automatic transmission 

The first known automatic transmission engine to use hydraulic fluid was invented back in the 1940s. As the innovation became more refined and widely used throughout the years, automatics were once looked down on due to their limited number of gears - resulting in higher revs that soon burned through your tank of petrol. 

However, the tables seem to be turning when it comes to automatic vehicles. Allianz reports that in contrast to the manual transmission-dominated European and American markets, more and more Aussie drivers are now choosing automatic cars1

"Transmissions that allow the engine speed to be better matched to driving speed improve fuel economy," explains Allianz, a view backed up by Edmunds, who states that with technical advancement and the addition of extra gears, automatics appear to be trumping manuals in terms of efficiency3

So which will you pick? The ease of the automatic? Or the hands-on approach of a manual? Which ever you prefer, find out important information about a used car before you buy with a CarHistory report. You can take a look at a sample report here.

1Allianz, The shift away from manual vehicles. Accessed June, 2015. 

2Arnold Clark, Are automatic cars now more fuel-efficient than manual? Accessed June, 2015. 

3Edmunds, Five Myths About Stick Shifts: Manual vs Automatic Transmissions. Accessed June, 2015.